Smriti Safaya (PhD student)
Supervisors: Dr. Sarah West and Dr. Lynda Dunlop (Department of Education)
Smriti is a distance-learning Department of Education PhD student working with SEI York on interdisciplinary research combining citizen science, pro-environmental behavioural science and experiential education.
Having started out as a geologist and earth scientist in her undergraduate and masters degrees, she recognized the value (and fun!) of learning in the field. She took those experiences to heart and applied it in her subsequent 13 years of professionally teaching high school geography and world issues at international schools in Hong Kong.
Smriti's excitement for creating interdisciplinary experiential learning opportunities has led her to bring more than 2200 students on 50+ field trips exploring places in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. During her time working with students, she's observed that they often "talk the talk", but don't necessarily "walk the walk". Why don’t people always act on the values they hold dear? This phenomenon, known as the value-action gap, has been a source of fascination and frustration for many in the education and socio-psychological behavioural fields for decades. Her own teaching experience and the academic literature reveal that nature-based experiential education is a powerful agent for developing ecological values and action in youth.
Citizen science is a nascent experiential pedagogical tool in Asia, and Smriti's PhD research will evaluate the contribution that nature-based citizen science can have in nurturing environmental values and pro-environmental behaviours in secondary school-aged students in Hong Kong. The outcomes of her research will include creating professional development resources, sharing best practice for transformative citizen science initiatives for educators in the Asian region and beyond.
Though her current research is focused on the environment, Smriti's interests span social justice and inequality issues too, and in her additional role as the Hong Kong ambassador for Citizen Science Asia, a regional organization promoting citizen science, she is keen to learn more about opportunities for civic engagement to make our world a kinder, greener and more resilient place.